Indianapolis --- Josh Smith isn't sure how superstitious his Hawks teammates are, but he has a suggestion if they're looking for a magic number this season. "How about six?" he said after the Hawks finished off the Indiana Pacers 110-104 on Tuesday night for their sixth consecutive victory, matching the 6-0 start this season. "We finished 2008 the same way we started [the season], man. There's something there. I don't know what right now, but there has to be something.
"Because this is a dream come true for us, especially when you consider where we've come from. This feels really good."
The Hawks, winners of nine of their past 10 games after their gritty, come-from-behind victory, pushed their overall record to an impressive 21-10.
Smith's drive and bounce pass to Joe Johnson for a 3-pointer and a 108-104 lead with 32.7 seconds to play polished off the pesky Pacers, helping the Hawks snap a five-game losing streak at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Smith shut down Pacers star Danny Granger on consecutive possessions in the final minute to keep the Hawks' winning ways going. And he and Johnson combined for 38 points (19 each) in the second half point to lift their team after halftime.
Johnson's always going to be a part of the heavy lifting in the fourth quarter, and he did it again with 12 of his game-high 27 points in the final 12 minutes.
Smith finished with a season-high tying 24 points, six rebounds, five turnovers and three assists, and the biggest dish, of course, was finding Johnson for that game-clinching shot.
"[Smith] made a great Basketball play," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said of the busted play that turned out to be the game-sealer. "He drove and drew two, three people and everybody sucked in and left Joe out on the 3-point line and Joe hit a big-time shot. What can you say, man? Joe's been huge for us this season so far."
The Hawks burned the Pacers with good offensive rotations the entire night, finding the open man time after time when they needed it most.
Johnson insists he was just trying to be aggressive in a game that got extremely physical in the third quarter, when the teams combined for 72 points, 33 free-throw attempts, 20 personal fouls and two technical fouls --- on Marvin Williams of the Hawks and swingman Marquis Daniels of the Pacers.
"I was just trying to be aggressive, trying to make a play," Johnson said. "At the last second, Josh saw me and skipped the ball across the court and I just took my time and knocked it down."
That's the way it worked for most of the night for the Hawks, who prevailed despite a rough shooting night from beyond the 3-point line (6-for-23).
"Bad rotations," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "We fought that the whole game. We did not execute the things we practice every single day. We're putting ourselves in a position to win against elite teams. That's the good news. The bad news is we haven't figured out how to win games down the stretch."
That's something the Hawks have suddenly developed a penchant for, pulling out their past three games with methodical fourth-quarter efforts.
"Clearly the Atlanta Hawks have become a very, very good Basketball team," O'Brien said. "They have a lot of offensive weapons. They're an extremely athletic team. They outplayed us."
NEXT FOR Hawks
* Who: at Nets
* When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
* TV; radio: FSSO; 790 AM